Monday, 19 May 2014

Knowledge exchange: a two-way street

David Caffall, Chief Executive of the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) reflects on the role of the agri-supply industry in linking research and practice.    

The recent workshop, hosted by Landbridge on 1 May, brought together key components from within the knowledge exchange pipeline, ranging from experts involved in R&D and professional’s delivering advice at the coal-face to farmers across the country.

Whilst the focus of the discussions during the day centred on the role that the land professions could play in linking the laboratory and the farm, it is important that we don’t lose sight of a vital mechanism which already exists to effectively connect researchers with farmers and vice versa.

Over the years businesses across the agri-supply industry have made significant inroads by developing collaborative relationships with Research Councils, levy bodies, leading universities, veterinary schools and Centres of Excellence. They also invest over £45 million each year in their own near-market research (including field and animal feeding trials, laboratory studies and farm pilot studies), to explore the innovative potential from research conducted in the public sector. This ensures that the latest science is readily available to their extensive army of professional advisers for translation onto farms across the UK.

Just a year ago AIC published it’s Ring of Confidence model[1]  which demonstrates the trusted relationship that farmers have with their professional advisers such as agronomists/crop advisers, feed advisers, seed representatives and grain traders. This relationship means that advisers provide a feed-back loop back to the R&D community and shows how the channels of communication have been opened up so that knowledge exchange is very much a ‘two-way street’.

Engagement with the R&D base to drive the translation of science onto farms has to be a priority as knowledge transfer is simply only one half of the story. We need to draw on the experience of existing models that best effect a knowledge exchange with feed-back loops which aren’t closed and facilitate the exchange of knowledge from researcher to farmers and farmers to researchers.

[1] AIC (2013) Value of Advice Report

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